Airborne Doppler Radar and Sounding Analysis of an Oceanic Cold Front

Wakimoto, Roger M.; Murphey, Hanne V.
April 2008
Monthly Weather Review;Apr2008, Vol. 136 Issue 4, p1475
Academic Journal
An analysis of a cold front over the eastern Atlantic Ocean based on airborne Doppler wind syntheses and dropsonde data is presented. The focus and unique aspect of this study is a segment of the front that was near the center of the cyclone. The dual-Doppler wind synthesis of the frontal zone combined with an average dropsonde spacing of ∼30 km covers a total distance of >450 km in the cross-frontal direction. The finescale resolution and areal coverage of the dataset are believed to be unprecedented. The cold front was characterized by a distinct wind shift and a strong horizontal temperature gradient. The latter was most intense aloft and not at the surface, in contrast to the classical paradigm of surface cold fronts. The shear of the alongfront component of the wind was relatively uniform as a function of height within the frontal zone. This observation is contrary to studies suggesting that frontal zones decrease in intensity above the surface. The surface convergence within the frontal zone was weak. This may have been related to the closeness of the analysis region to the surface low pressure. The prefrontal low-level jet and the upper-level polar jet were both shown to be supergeostrophic based on the analysis of the geopotential height field. It is believed that a major contributing factor to the former was the isallobaric wind from the large pressure tendencies associated with the moving cyclone. A dry pocket accompanied by descending air was noted out ahead of the low-level jet. This pocket produced a region of potential instability that could have supported deep convection, although none was observed on this day. The vertical structure of the front revealed couplets of potential vorticity that appeared to be the result of diabatic heat sources from condensation. The diabatic effect in the frontogenesis equation was the dominant term, exceeding the combined effects of the confluence and tilting terms. As a result, an alternating pattern of frontogenesis–frontolysis developed along the flanks of the maxima of diabatic heating. This study highlights the importance of taking diabatic heating into account even in the absence of deep convection.


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